It is harder to learn to fly a second time. Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight firm headed by billionaire Richard Branson, lost its first SpaceShipTwo in a pilot-caused crashed in 2014, setting back dreams of passenger spaceflight. The new SpaceShipTwo, named VSS Unity (and not SpaceShipThree), was unveiled in February. Today, slung beneath the wing of its WhiteKnightTwo mothership Eve, Unity took to the sky for its second-ever flight.
Europe's Schiaparelli Mars lander did not have had the smooth landing its team had hoped for on October 19, but at least it didn't stay missing for long. A high-resolution camera onboard a NASA satellite discovered the errant spacecraft's parachute and other fragments within days of impact. But not all lost Mars landers have been found so quickly—another European spacecraft, Beagle-2, disappeared for more than a decade, from the time of its failed landing in 2003 all the way until 2015.
Astronomers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Arizona State University are developing the most sensitive millimeter-wavelength polarimetric camera on Earth, called TolTEC. The camera will use 7,000 detectors across three different bands in the electromagnetic spectrum. When it's completed, it'll be coupled with the 164-foot diameter Large Millimeter Telescope, the world's largest single-dish steerable millimetre-wavelength telescope, which is located in Puebla, Mexico.
In August, astronomers revealed that the nearest star system to the sun, Alpha Centauri, possesses a world roughly 1.3 times Earth's mass. Alpha Centauri consists of three stars — Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and a small red dwarf named Proxima Centauri — and this newfound planet appears to call Proxima Centauri home.